No. 497 - Penguin - St Mary's Catholic Church

Penguin is a coastal town situated approximately 30 kilometres west of Devonport. It was one of the last coastal towns to be settled in the 1860’s. The Victorian gold rush created a renewed demand for timber and consequently wood cutters and splitters settled in the area. The town was named by the botanist Ronald Campbell Gunn after the penguin rookeries that were once common along this part of the coast.

In 1903 the first Catholic Mass at Penguin was held by Father O’Reilly in Athon’s Hall. Following the Mass, a meeting was held to discuss building a church at the town. When Father O’Reilly returned to take a second Mass a year later, some progress had been made however it was to take another four years before this ambition was realised. Fundraising for the a church was largely driven by Catholic women, with Mrs McAuliffe and Nurse McKenna serving as joint secretaries of a fundraising committee.

By mid 1908 a site was purchased on King Edward Street for £50 and a contract for the building at a cost of £265 was awarded to Mr Charles Monson. The foundation stone (donated by Charles Monson) was laid on Sunday 18 October 1908 in a ceremony led by Reverend Monsignor Beechinor of Launceston and assisted by the new parish priest, Father Dowling.

The building was completed in early 1909 and officially opened by Archbishop Delany on Sunday 7 March. The event was reported by several newspapers including the North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times. Much of this report is reproduced below:

“The newly-erected Roman Catholic church at Penguin was opened yesterday morning, mass being solemnised by Father Dowling, while His Grace Archbishop Delaney preached a pleasant, practical sermon subsequent to the mass….The edifice, which is of weather board, is 60ft by 30ft, excluding the porch and vestry, both of which are roomy and neatly finished.… There is ample seating accommodation provided, the pews being of a comfortable size. Special attention has been paid to light and ventilation, and there are four windows on each side. Each window is in three sections, the top section being coloured a light sulphur shade, the centre section colourless, while the bottom section is of a soft purple tint. The doors are of the usual Gothic design, and withal substantial. The ceiling is neat and attractive, and the acoustic properties of the building are excellent. The walls inside are lath and plaster, with a dado of varnished timber about 4ft 6in high. The design of the sanctuary is a very neat one. The floor and steps are laid with a heavy carpet of a soft red colour with a fleur-de-lis pattern. The sanctuary railing is semi-circular, and gives the church a decidedly attractive appearance. The altar is neatly finished and decorated in a suitable and becoming manner. The furnishing is completed by me fourteen pictures illustrating the Way of the Cross, which are hung in substantial frames round the walls. The building and furnishing cost approximately £460, and of this amount about half has been paid”.



“For some time prior to the commencement of 11 o clock mass yesterday a very large number gathered outside the sacred edifice, and as soon as the building had been blessed by His Grace, the congregation was allowed in to the church, which was very quickly filled to overflowing, a great many having to stand. Included in the congregation were numbers from Ulverstone and Burnie….”.

This year St Mary’s celebrates its 110th anniversary. The building appears little changed in appearance from the description in the North West Post. It is a monument to Penguin’s Catholic women who were a driving force behind the church’s establishment.


Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019



Sources:


Examiner, Tuesday 27 September 1904, page 3
Daily Post, Thursday 28 May 1908, page 2
Examiner, Tuesday 20 October 1908, page 6
North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Wednesday 21 October 1908, page 4
North West Post, Thursday 4 March 1909, page 3
North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Monday 8 March 1909, page 3
Daily Telegraph, Tuesday 9 March 1909, page 7
North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Tuesday 9 March 1909, page 4
Daily Post, Wednesday 10 March 1909, page 6
Daily Telegraph, Wednesday 10 March 1909, page 7

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